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Classroom violence prompts renewed calls for support

A classroom incident in which a teacher was allegedly attacked with a saw has led to renewed calls for swift action to support young people in crisis and protect teaching staff. 

The New Zealand Principals’ Federation issued a statement following a violent episode at Mackenzie College in Fairlie, South Canterbury.

“I was deeply saddened to read the case of student violence at Mackenzie College this week, highlighting again the prevalence of violence in schools which places teachers, staff and other students in danger,” said Perry Rush, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF).

Rush has been calling for ministers and the Ministry of Education to step up and offer genuine, realistic support for traumatised young people in crisis so that they can undergo the specialised therapy they both deserve and need, for healing.

“I am sorry to say that the Mackenzie College incident, in which a teacher was attacked with a saw, is not an isolated incident,” said Rush.

An NZPF survey of principals last year recorded 680 separate instances of student violence in schools that had caused physical and psychological harm to teachers, staff and other students.

“This situation cannot continue,” said Rush. “As principals, we have an obligation under the Health & Safety in the Workplace Act to keep all staff and students safe when they are at school. When we are forced to enrol students who require specialised therapeutic help for violent episodes, and are not receiving that help. We cannot guarantee the safety of others. That is fundamentally wrong,” he said.

NZPF has been calling on Government to urgently act for over 15 months. The principals’ body says the system needs alternative options and greater resourcing. Rush added, “So far there is little indication that the Government is taking the issue seriously.”

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2 Comments

  1. This has gone on too long. We are dealing with incidents of violence on a daily basis with children as young as 5 years old. Gone are the days where we might have had one student in a school. We have multiple students in more than one class. The most I receive in terms of support is teacher aide hours. But there are not many teacher aides out there who have the skills to work with these children. I ask why should they have to? It is so draining to have to deal with this on a daily basis. As a Principal Im at a loss at what to do.

    I cant turn them away, If I hire more help to deal with them I go over my staffing and then get hammered because Im spending too much money on people. I deal with crying teachers and teacher aides who talk about not being safe on a weekly basis. Other parents pull children out of my school because they see whats going on in the classroom and then you get labelled as the behaviour school. If I stand them down to give everybody a bit of respite I am criticised by ERO for having too many stand downs. I stay up at night trying to find a solution to the problem all the time.
    With all the drama going on in classrooms the learning of other students suffers and they develop anxiety then I get slammed for poor achievement and poor attendance. Who wants to come to school and put up with that?
    Its simply too hard and we need help!

  2. I think the well being focus on mental health is lost when when don’t talk about the trauma and emotional impact on teachers and school staff. The wellbeing and safety of staff is paramount. It is both an employment responsibility but beyond that it’s about being a good person/institution – who can help children when they don’t have to tool or resources to help themselves either. Schools / Ministry of Education as good employers carry that responsibility, but in turn who helps Principal’s in all of this, who get parental, MOE and student expectations placed on them.
    One of the things I would say is that my school is at capacity – we can’t turn children away and yet they arrive with a violent past that is not always shared. The remedy is not to continue to be accepting of these behaviour.
    A factor missing in all of this is the behaviour of parents. Most recently reviewing our community behaviour and expectations policy. Parents need to be educated too about how to treat others – some of their behaviour towards school and parents in front of their tamariki is complacent to the support and help for teaching learning and life that teachers and school and all their staff give.
    Yesterday I was spat on and hit by a 6year old in distress. I am OK. Child at school because that is still the best place for him to be. But what happens to those who aren’t OK? Where are the solutions in the system ? There are systemic issues not being addressed with urgency or the full picture.

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